Reince Priebus was very quick to denounce the CNBC debate after it was over. He was right too. But let’s not kid ourselves. Part of the reason he did so was because it was a public relations disaster for the RNC, which took charge of orchestrating the debates this year.
But that is actually why I do not blame the RNC. Have we forgotten 2012?
In that year’s Presidential race, we had a pile of very insufferable debates. I think there were more than a thousand and some people might have died. One of those debates was, in fact, NBC sponsored with, if I remember right, the Politico, and the moderators dwelled on abortion and global warming.
Those debates were orchestrated by the networks and by the campaigns. The campaigns were put in a position where they really could not say no to any network without pissing off said networks. They were costly and demanding.
On top of that, because the RNC had zero control at all, the networks themselves handled who got to be there, who attended to cover the debates, etc.
The CNBC debate was terrible. And yes, the RNC should have fought John Harwood as a moderator, but it turned out CNBC had no capable moderators at all except for Jim Cramer who acted like he was about to go postal after each question he asked. Chuck Todd, who I actually think would have been a great moderator, was stuck in the back of the press room reminding Chris Matthews it wasn’t bed time yet.
I think it was reasonable for the RNC to presume ahead of time that CNBC, being a business network, would have stuck to business questions about “your money”, as the debate was branded. After all, no one can plausibly suggest that the RNC write the questions. They relied on a business news network to ask business related questions and instead got a handful of monkeys throwing pooh at the Republican candidates.
That is not the RNC’s fault.
Sure, the RNC could have demanded more conservatives ask questions, but that in turn requires conservatives willing to help foot the bill for the debates. The RNC cannot actually tell a network shelling out a few million dollars that the network must turn over moderating to outsiders who haven’t paid a dime. And while I too would prefer more conservatives, remember how many conservatives asked questions in the 2012 debates? Yeah, me neither.
The reality is that no one will ever be pleased with the debates. There will always be some grievance. But we should not forget just how truly bad so many of the debates were in 2012 — so much worse than either the Fox News or CNN debate this year. There was one debate in 2012 that required an advanced cable package just to watch it and the whole thing was a farce then.
Yes, the CNBC debate was terrible. Yes, John Harwood should have been blocked as George Stephanopoulos was. Yes, NBC and its sister stations should never, ever host a GOP Primary debate again. But don’t deny that we’ve only had really one truly terrible debate this year compared to a few thousand in 2012. And don’t deny that there are more conservatives participating now than in 2012. And most of all, don’t deny that it has been to our candidates’ benefit that the RNC has told various left-wing networks to get lost when it would have been impossible for the individual candidates to do it.
You think the CNBC debate is bad? Wait till Jorge Ramos and Univision have their GOP debate. Oh wait … they won’t because Reince Priebus told them no. And if the RNC was not involved, you can bet Univision would have had one with some of the more pathetic candidates showing up forcing the top tier candidates to show up too.
Reince Priebus has a thankless job in this. I think the good far outweighs the CNBC moderators.